Why Sheedy can't stand Carlton
By Glenn Mcfarlane
Saturday, August 04, 2001
HATE is an emotion easily masked in the never-give-a-sucker-an-even-break world of AFL football.
Clubs do everything to talk down rivalries, feuds and battles -- out of fear that whatever is said or done on or off the field will come back to bite them. That is, unless you are talking about Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy and the Carlton Football Club.
To put it simply, Sheeds cannot stand Carlton, even though he's too shrewd to comment on his feelings publicly before today's clash at the MCG. And the feeling is mutual. Sheedy respects Carlton and admires its success -- an AFL record of 16 premierships shared with Essendon since the Bombers drew level after winning last year's flag.
But does he like the Blues? Hell no!
In fact, there is a dividing line in the history of Essendon and Carlton clashes -- ''Before Sheedy'' and ''After Sheedy''.
Before Sheedy, the Bombers and the Blues put up with, rather than hated each other. There were some famous battles and they played off in four Grand Finals in the first 85 seasons.
Essendon-Carlton contests were skirmishes, nowhere near as bitter and hard-fought as the Collingwood-Carlton and Carlton-Richmond wars.
But as soon as Sheedy joined Essendon as coach in 1981 -- after a 251-game career with Richmond, Carlton's most bitter foe in the '70s -- the Bombers-Blues relationship began to fray.
''I don't think Essendon and Carlton really hated each other until Sheeds went to Windy Hill,'' said Barry Richardson, Sheedy's former Richmond teammate and one-time Carlton match committee member.
''To be honest, I think the relationship between the two teams was innocuous until Sheeds came on the scene.''
Through the '80s the angst festered, game by game. It boiled over in the '90s when Essendon upset Carlton to win the 1993 Grand Final -- a game in which Sheedy threw a phone in the direction of the adjoining Blues coaches' box. The Blues clawed one back when they won the 1999 preliminary final by one point. But the Sheedy-Carlton feud is also personal.
After all, Blues president John Elliott did call Sheedy a ''twerp'' this year. And Sheedy was also involved in a slanging match with former Carlton player, coach and now media man Robert Walls earlier this season.
So what are the real reasons behind AFL football's most intriguing rivalry?
''SHEEDS HIT ME AND I GOT HIM OFF''
IT is one of the mysteries of VFL football that Sheedy -- one of the most physical players to play -- was reported only once in his career.
It is no surprise to learn that report came against Carlton.
Sheedy was reported in his second VFL season, 1968, for striking Carlton's Adrian Gallagher in a spiteful game. ''He hit me, no doubt about it,'' Gallagher said this week. ''I can't understand why he hates Carlton because I did him one of the greatest favours ever by getting him off at the tribunal. Fair dinkum, Perry Mason would have blushed.''
Sheedy was acquitted. But the seeds were sown in a feud that would bubble over into something far more potent.
''I'LL NEVER FORGET IT, NEITHER WILL KEVIN''
RICHMOND'S loss to Carlton in the 1972 Grand Final still haunts then-Tigers coach Tom Hafey. Much as, Hafey says, Essendon's loss to Carlton in the 1999 preliminary final must still burn deep in Sheedy's psyche.
''I can not believe we lost that day,'' Hafey said this week. ''We were the best team that year by a million miles and they (Carlton) won the premiership. I will certainly never forget it. None of the players will. I'm sure it still hurts Kevin, too.''
Richardson believes Sheedy may have his own reasons for never forgetting that day in 1972.
''I remember the '72 second semi-final replay and late in the game we were about 40 points up,'' he said.
''Sheeds went up to John Nicholls (Carlton captain) and ruffled his hair. I remember thinking, 'That's a bad idea'. It gave them plenty of ammunition for us. I think they used it to their advantage.''
Nicholls kicked six goals in the forward pocket for Carlton in the Grand Final and was the inspiration for the win, while Sheedy's opponent, Trevor Keogh, kicked three goals.
''That was a dirty day for Kevin,'' Richardson said. ''I remember late in the game Nicholls ruffled Sheeds's hair as a payback.''
Sheedy and the Tigers, did manage to get one back. But they had to wait 12 months. Richmond outmuscled Carlton in the 1973 Grand Final, one of the VFL's most vicious play-offs.
One former Sheedy confidant said: ''The reason Sheedy hates Carlton has everything to do with the Richmond connection. There is a bitterness there that lasts to this day.''
BACK POCKET PLUMBER V THE BLUEBLOODS
HAFEY and Richardson subscribe to the theory that Sheedy secretly sees Carlton as the affluent silver-spooners compared with his own ''bloody back pocket plumber'' image.
''We hate them (Carlton),'' Hafey said. ''They voted Liberal and we voted Labor. We were more of the tatts and singlets brigade and from a tougher environment. Carlton were the silver spoons. Our cultures were completely different and that's one of the reasons we did not mix with them. I'm sure Kevin thought that and still does.''
Three decades on, Richardson sees the irony in this view.
''Graeme Richmond (former Tigers powerbroker) and Tommy Hafey liked to build it up that we were the working-class team against the affluence of Carlton,'' he said.
''Somewhere deep down with Kevin (today) it still is the back pocket plumber versus the bluebloods. He likes to build up the fact Essendon is from the western suburbs and Carlton is privileged. And he was probably getting $600,000 a year last season compared to David Parkin's $250,000.''
Not to mention, the Essendon of this season has more members, more clout and more money than Carlton.
THE CRAIG BRADLEY SAGA
CARLTON captain Craig Bradley plays his 350th game at the MCG today, something which will undoubtedly stick in Sheedy's craw.
The Bombers signed Bradley as a 16-year-old kid from Port Adelaide, but let some vital paperwork slip. That presented former Carlton chief Ian Collins with the opportunity to come in and ''steal'' Bradley.
''He dropped his guard, I saw an opportunity and was in like Flynn,'' said Collins, now Colonial Stadium chief. ''I give him a gentle reminder about it whenever I can.''
Collins claims Sheedy was so enraged at losing Bradley in the mid-'80s he sent Essendon players out to physically intimidate the young player.
''I think he tried to make it very hard for Craig in his early days on the field, because he chose Carlton over Essendon,'' Collins said.
''He saw a youngster who was not heavily built and light-framed and tried to put him under undue, unnecessary physical stuff. But Craig stood the test of time and came through with flying colours.
''I keep saying to Kevin that deep down he desperately wants to coach Carlton. Perhaps that might be his final hurrah.''
THROWING THE PHONE
TWENTY-five years after they appeared at the VFL tribunal together, Sheedy and Gallagher came face-to-face in a heated exchanged in the Essendon and Carlton coaches' box during the 1993 Grand Final.
Carlton went into the game favoured to win, but wilted under severe pressure. As the game slipped away, Stephen Kernahan bowled over a Bomber, prompting an extraordinary reaction from Sheedy.
''There was this almighty noise, we thought it was a sniper shot hitting the coaches' box window,'' said Gallagher, who was on the Blues match committee.
''I turned around and Sheeds had thrown his phone against the window, aiming at us.''
Gallagher responded screaming, ''How dare you!'', prompting a wry grin from Sheedy. The Bombers raced away, giving Sheedy his third premiership as coach and, importantly, his first as coach against the old enemy.
A PREMIERSHIP THROWN AWAY
CARLTON had the ultimate payback reserved for Essendon and Sheedy six years later in the 1999 preliminary final. The Blues beat the Bombers by a point in one of the biggest upsets in AFL history, depriving Essendon of a Grand Final spot and, some suggested, a certain premiership.
Sheedy was ''gutted''.
A former staffer said: ''No one could believe it. Not only had the Bombers lost the game by a point and the chance to win a premiership, but they had lost out to Carlton. That would have really hurt him.''
Former Essendon ruckman Peter Somerville said Sheedy had always emphasised the Carlton clashes.
''He loves beating Carlton. He used to build himself up for those big games and emphasis their history and how they love to beat Essendon,'' Somerville said.
''That loss in '99 was shattering. I think Essendon was going to win the flag that year, no doubt about it. That was the thing that hurt the most.''
Sheedy responded the only way he knows -- he sat the players down the next day and had them poring over the video of the heartbreaking loss.
''He just wanted to make sure he nailed them the next time, and to make sure the club made up for that loss,'' Somerville said.
The Bombers did that by winning 24 of their 25 games last season, including the flag. It was very pointed that on Grand Final eve he told his players they had to silence the ''acid tongue of Carlton'', football columnist Robert Walls, who had tipped against them.
Stand by for the next instalment.
10 BOMBER BEEFS
Carlton has as many premiership flags as Essendon.
Fraser Brown saved the best tackle of his career to bring down Dean Wallis and Essendon's 1999 premiership ambitions, by a
John Elliott, sworn enemy of everything red and black, is president of the Blues. Elliott claimed the Bombers cheated in the 1993 Grand Final as they were later found guilty of being over the AFL salary cap.
Carlton 'stole' Craig Bradley, after Bradley had originally signed with Essendon as a 16-year-old.
The Bombers finished on top of the ladder in 1968, only to lose to the Blues in the second semi-final and Grand Final.
The Bombers still claim Carlton cost them the 1951 premiership. The Bombers were shooting for three straight flags when Blue Harry Caspar decided to 'rough up'' superstar John Coleman in the last home and away game. Coleman retaliated and was
suspended for the rest of the year. Essendon, without one of the game's greatest forwards, lost the flag by only 11 points.
Essendon was snubbed by VFL super powers Carlton, Collingwood and Richmond in 1984 when the trio was discussing forming a breakaway competition.
The Blues allow Glenn Manton to slag off the Bombers and Sheedy ad nauseum.
Carlton got the best out of Justin Madden.
Long-time Bomber fans will never forget Fred Stafford's goal in the dying moments of the 1947 Grand Final, giving the Blues a one-point win.
10 BLUES RUES
Blues fans can no longer boast 'we've got more flags than you'' after Essendon's 16th premiership last year.
Jason Johnson cost Anthony Koutoufides the chance of winning last year's Brownlow.
Kevin Sheedy, arch-enemy of everything navy blue, is coach of the Bombers. The former Richmond back pocket plumber has little time for Carlton, and Blues fans can't cop him, either.
They will never forgive Essendon for rubbing Carlton's noses in it in the 1993 Grand Final, or Dean Wallis's hit on Mil Hanna.
Carlton will never forget Essendon's come-from-behind victory over the Blues in the 1981 home and away season. What Blues fan doesn't feel sick whenever he sees Neale Daniher?
They believe that since Matthew Lloyd's father was a Carlton player, the Essendon spearhead should also have been based at Optus Oval.
Essendon lost a Grand Final to Collingwood in 1990, putting an end to years of Colliwobbles jokes.
The Blues believe Greg Williams was 'robbed'' of the Brownlow in 1993, the year Essendon's Gavin Wanganeen won. Williams lost by a vote and did not poll in a game where he had 44 touches.
For Tim Watson's leap over Mark Maclure as the Bombers won the night series in 1981.
For Essendon being odds-on favourites to win a record 17th flag on September 29.
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